The two leaders have internalized different lessons from the last election. McCarthy saw his party win back a dozen House seats, against all expectations, because he was able to keep all of the GOP’s fractious factions in the same big tent. The Republican Party’s sizable freshman class is the most diverse in the party’s history—but it also includes a pair of far-right extremists who dominated the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons in the opening weeks of the 117th Congress.
McConnell experienced a similar burst of success in November. But his was fleeting; he lost control of the Senate after his party indulged former President Trump and his election denialism. To McConnell, the loss of two Senate runoffs in Georgia (and the subsequent Jan. 6 Capitol riot) underscored the damage of letting the craziest elements of the party run rampant. If setting the course for future success means directly confronting Trump’s damage to the party, McConnell believes it’s worth the cost.